Needle in a haystack. info
QUORN, LEICESTERSHIRE, ENGLAND 1943. It was summer 1943. The US 82nd Airborne Division, 505 Parachute Regiment were billeted under canvas in the village of Quorn, Leicestershire where I was born. For us scruffy youngsters with no realization of war it was an exiting time watching the military field training exercises with their troops crossing the River Soar in pontoon boats, building temporary bridges, climbing under our own bridges and blowing them up with dummy explosives. Most of us children in the village were of ‘one parent’ families at the time since our own Dads were away at war. The GI’s rapidly became a familiar sight spending freely around the pubs and shops for whatever food and services were available. The pubs were full many evenings and it was not uncommon to see our drunken ‘Yankie’ friend’s chewing gum while lighting their cigars with £1 notes and asking, ‘Have you got any big sisters?’ Our reply being, ‘Have you got any gum chum?’ It was not long before we were running errands here and there for pocket money. Indeed, we soon cottoned on to the idea there would be a way of earning a bob or two with money being tight. Mind you, our American friends were extremely kind and generous. Friendships were soon formed with mainly lads running errands for two or three tented groups of about 18 men down to the local stores, bakery, chip shops, pubs and newsagents etc. It as a time many mothers were employed on war work in munitions factories like my own mother. At the same time my Granny earned a steady income doing the American troops clothing alterations and repairs, laundry, ironing and even some home baking when supplied with the necessary ingredients. An extra form of income on the ‘home front’ war years. I was soon ‘adopted’ by Platoon Sgt. Louie Yarchak to run errands especially in the evening to the chip shop or pub for a crate of bottled beer. (No questions asked in those days about how old you were.) Also, £1’s worth of chips would fill a large carton and heavy for a young un’ like me to carry. Mind you, I never grumbled, the ‘GI’s’ were good to me especially, ‘Mr. Louie.’ With my own Dad being in the army throughout the war I grew fond of my American friend. He became something of a father figure and mentor. Strangely, it was a happy part of my childhood. The weeks and months seemed to run into years at that age. Then, about the Spring of 1944, overnight as if by magic, the US 505 Parachute Regiment were gone…my friend with them. The years passed, decades came and went. In 1954 I too moved away from the village. First, two years National Service in the army, marriage in September 1956 followed by the routine of work, earning a living and raising a family. Even so, I never forgot my GI mentor ‘Mr. Louie’. Indeed, memories of him grew stronger as the years passed wondering, did make it back home? Was he injured or killed? Subsequently I learned he may have been involved in the 1944 Dutch ‘Market Garden’ offensive. For me, now close to 78 years old, chances of tracing him faded to little more than a distant memory and wishful thinking. Until, one day, an incredible coincidence. In a chance 2002 meeting with a Royal British Legion member in the village of Quorn I was recommended to contact the British/US Chapter historian living in Leicester. To my amazement after so many years he provided with precise details of my wartime friends’ service record. S/Sgt. Louis Yarchak, F Company, Army No. 33143760 joined 505 Parachute Regiment in 1942. With four combat jumps in Sicily, Italy, Normandy and Holland he had been awarded the Silver Star for gallantry. In 1945 he returned home to Philadelphia and joined the Police Force. Sadly on the 8th September 1953 Louis was called to attend a domestic brawl. On emerging from his police car the trouble maker came running from the house with a gun and shot Louise dead. A terrible act of misfortune to a good man and a brave trooper. Though his life was taken, no-one can take my memory of him. However, there was yet a further twist to my story. In 2006 I was contacted by the host of our local Burgh-le-Marsh, Lincolnshire, village website where I now live saying she had been approached by a Yarchak family member living in Laporte, PA, 18626 USA who were trying to trace me. After a period exchanging correspondence with family members and grandchildren we soon became friendly. Happily there was an even more enjoyable though emotional sequel to events. In September of 2008 Mrs. Agnes Yarchak aged 83, sister-in-law to Louie, came with family on her first visit to the UK for a holiday in Scotland. With my 75 year old wife Georgina we flew from East Midlands airport to Glasgow for a weekend ‘reunion’. Indeed, a lifetime memory to cherish. Army old sweat.